Developing Credibility in your first job, student placement or internship
Irrespective of how long you see yourself staying in an organisation or whether you might want to go back after a placement or internship, it is vital to establish your credibility. There are some simple steps to getting yourself recognised positively by an employer, and for you to develop powerful transferable skills.
1. Focussing on the job and objectives
If you don’t do the job the employer or your line manager is expecting you to do then you will be seen as letting the team down, so help your manager by allowing them to realise their targets and deadlines by focussing on your job responsibilities, objectives and deadlines.
Job descriptions – you need to use the probationary and/or consultation process to identify what your responsibilities are, and aim for clarity on what you are expected to do/not expected to do for any given responsibility. Do ask where appropriate, what your decision making authority and boundaries are.
Objectives – all short, medium or long-term tasks set by your manager, within or outside your formally agreed areas of responsibility, should be SMART with clear milestones you can tick off – successfully completed tasks are undeniable evidence of you doing your job and your manager managing.
Deadlines – it is necessary to set timescales for tasks otherwise they may never be achieved. Do make a single page spreadsheet of all your objectives recording the status of sub-objectives required to complete, copy your manager, and insist on regular update meetings to review progress. Don’t hide bad news about deadlines which can’t be achieved.
2. Developing expertise
To improve your chances of rising to a management position you will need to broaden your knowledge of what’s important to the success of the business you joined. You need to take charge of your own CPD right from the start.
In work’s time – improve your personal knowledge and involvement in the business. Ask for assignments to improve your skills’ set, and look for opportunities to practise your skills. Avoid however carrying out any formal learning activities on-line or on-desk which are not sanctioned by your line manager.
In your own time -keep your knowledge up-to-date by using online tools from your professional membership, and read up/around your subject using their digital magazines and journals.
3. Being a good listener
Good listening is a fundamental soft skill and the essential interpersonal skill required in life. You will not appreciate just how important and powerful a skill good listening can be until you do it!
Instructions – make notes and repeat back using key own words from what you have heard to check you have heard correctly. Ask for clarification on what the expected outcome is, and the timelines for completion if not clear in your briefing, but be careful when challenging ‘orders’ so you don’t disrespect your manager’s position or authority – always be polite and present yourself as a responsible and responsive team member.
Guidance – show deference to your line manager or senior colleagues by asking if there is any particular way they would accomplish specified objectives, or any pitfalls to avoid. If you don’t have a clue on how to accomplish a task, find a way of asking for general advice from one of your less senior colleagues.
Feedback – critical for personal development so ask for realistic and constructive feedback when things aren’t going well. You need to know how to do things right in the eyes of your manager as quickly as possible; don’t shirk and let issues fester or get out of proportion.
4. Communicating to influence and persuade
Clear communication is an indispensable way to build your credibility, influence/persuade people, and get what you want out of your job and life.
E-mail – getting your message over quickly and in the right way (tone) is essential. For really important business emails write a draft and then leave it and do something else before sending. Check the grammar and spelling and make sure it is unambiguous and as short as possible, and don’t forget to observe company etiquette for emails – use the approved signature style and company disclaimer in external emails
Telephone – manner and tone when making and receiving calls are important so always answer your incoming calls as quickly as possible, and start by giving your name clearly. If someone is with you, excuse yourself as you check who is calling, and don’t forget to excuse yourself again if you need to take the call rather than defer it. Try to be cheerful and positive so you don’t get caught in a mood or a strop by your manager.
Presentations – irrespective of the format (overhead or video projection, webcast or just stand up and speak) should be clear and simple with multi-media and images where possible to dilute blocks of written information. Try to use text and diagrams sparingly, avoid silly cartoons/clip art, and don’t overload with information – let people know more and supporting data or results are available if needed;
Reports – should be structured and accurate with graphics to make clearer and more interesting. Explain why people should care about what you’ve done i.e. the significance, and don’t forget to use spelling and grammar checks.
You will be expected to network at company conferences and meetings or at external industry/business/customer events where you make contact with professionals in your area of business. The key is in the preparation and knowing when to do it, when not to, and in not being seen to overdo it! Don’t however confuse personal business networking with personal social networking and overstep the mark with your employer.
Face-to-face business networking – even shy people can do it! Start by checking event attendance lists and mark out people you know already, and those you feel your manager might expect you to make contact with. Don’t worry about asking for help getting to an important contact – you don’t have to apologise for wanting to meet people and learn more about them or their business products and services. Collect business cards from people you talk to, pick up brochures and other literature, and make a written record of things learned to impress your manager.
Online business networking – professional network service platforms permit external contacts to be established and nurtured, but think and act carefully in any online interactions as a company representative, and never share specific company information or ideas – you’ll get the sack for treating a private or public business like an open forum. Do link your company’s website and describe your company’s products and services in addition to your own expertise and experience, and join groups hosted by other network members that focus on areas of your company’s business interest.
Social networking – face-to-face contact with colleagues during breaks, at company events, outside of work and through your own personal websites, social networking services and microblogging accounts can cause problems. Be wary of people who may not be real friends, and what you or they reveal or say. Ensure your security settings are up really high so you are unsearchable to anyone with whom you are not ‘friends’ or ‘connected’. Focus on positive things about your job, colleagues and your life out of work, and don’t ever write about how bad the company or people you work with are, and never include opinions or details you wouldn’t say directly to someone’s face.
For further detail on how to develop credibility, and information on establishing your value and dealing with formal procedures in a job, placement or internship, see Quick Guide to Success in Graduate Career Jobs, Student Placements and Internships, by William R Ashcroft, 2016 Kindle Edition.